Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lush Period Piece

Sunday. Long Day. Pretty productive, though not at home. We needed to get out of here for a while. BADLY. With the weather being cool again and windy, the kids are dying to get outside. They started asking to "go bye bye" as soon as they woke up.

We got dressed and headed to Peru for some lunch at McDonald's. I thought the kids were going to explode with excitement at the site of it. Oh how they miss their beloved MCD's. We can't wait until the new one gets built in Princeton!

Then we went to Menard's and returned our broken rake. No one there seemed to know what to do or be able to make a decision. They kept passing me off onto someone else, asking them to make the decision if I could exchange it. Finally I just went back to the service desk with a replacement rake and told them that I had found the replacement and wanted to exchange it and they just took the broken one and I walked out. Simple. Eventually. Once I made the decision for them. Everyone important was out to lunch, (bah.) We happened across hooded towels on clearance for $6, which is a steal. Ardyn picked a puppy and Marek picked a lion. So $12 at Menard's and a new rake. Then to JoAnn for some white thread, which I was nearly out of. And I snuck in couple of 50% off Easter basket stuffers and got a half off licensed fleece throw kit, as Marek is outgrowing his John Deere fleece rapidly.

Then we came home and took a late nap. The kids were exhausted and I was too, needed a quiet break from their constant chitter chattering. Tonight Evan brought home Ardyn's request for Taco Pizza and we all ate and watched a movie together. It was nice. We just put the kids to bed and carried a cattle tank down to the basement for the chicks to move into. The darn thing is so cold from being outside, that I have the heater running INSIDE of it, to warm it up before transferring the chicks, so I don't freeze them to death. They are really really getting big! I have taken some photos. They are flying all around (well, like 6 inches off the ground) and the largest one is getting nice and tall, and not only does he? have magnificent little wings now, but also a tail coming in! Exciting!

I am watching another "B" movie. Well, I have found several lately that have been really good. I tend to look for period pieces, historical fiction, or anything that is English :) Tonight I am watching "An Education" and so far it's entertaining. The co-star was born in Illinois :)

Last night I watched "Heartbreaker" which is the subtitled version of the French L'arnacoeur. It was awesome. I LOVED it. Even subtitled. I didn't KNOW it was subtitled when I started it, and had every intention of NOT watching it, but it was really good from the get-go, so I just had to stick to it. I also watched FAME (the remake) which was also awesome. I am just trying to tide myself over till April when the next Masterpiece Theater starts. :) I LOOOOVE Masterpiece Theater. I think if I ever donate to a cause it will be PBS. I adore PBS.

An Education is about a high school girl in the 1960's who is 16 and hopefully heading to Oxford, who meets an older man, like out of college, and somehow her parents either don't see them as romantically involved, or just think him trustworthy, because they let him take her out to cultured events. He has money, and a sportscar, and convinces her parents to let him take her somewhere for the weekend (!) and.... that's what I am watching. He turns out to be in a questionable profession and she has to overlook or accept that in order to be with him and a part of his cultured life. In P.E. She sneaks off with her friends behind a tree to share Russian cigarettes bought in Paris, where he will supposedly be whisking her off to on her 17th Birthday.

It's not a to die for movie, but good enough to keep me from pausing it so far to go check the chicks :) Oh yeah, better check the chicks!

Okay, chicks transferred to their new home! I also raised the light up since it has been a week or so, but I am thinking I might have to raise it higher because the walls of this are so much higher, and metal, that I think it might retain the heat more, and it might be warmer in there than previously. I let Boyd come down after I had transferred them. This time he was really really interested in them. Sniff sniff... and lip licking. LOTS of lip licking. This will be an interesting journey!

OMG This movie just took a serious turn. I don't know WHY I didn't see it coming. wow. Her parents didn't see it coming either. LOL.

Hmmm. Have you noticed I seem to have nothing of any significance or importance to say tonight? Well. I guess Happy Spring Break to so many of you, and I will write more tomorrow if something noteworthy comes to mind. Perhaps I will start "Young Victoria." Since it is described as a "lush period piece" I am sure it will be right up my alley.

Ardyn's daily piece of wisdom "The wicked witch's car is red."

Yes, yes it is Ardyn :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday. I can't say I am thrilled. Sort of indifferent. Evan has a gig tonight. We have no plans. None. Nothing. Except cleaning house. Still. And Laundry. Cleaning ladies on vacation, so I really need to vacuum and mop, because that just can't wait four weeks. But I also really need to clean the kitchen up, pick up around this disaster zone, and also, maybe just maybe, put away the Christmas Decorations. And the Valentine Decorations. Oh, they have long since been taken down, but they are in a big pile in my dining room waiting to be packed up into their totes and taken to the attic. I am afraid I still don't care.

I woke up this morning to Ardyn screaming from her bed. Why? Because her nose was snotty. And I don't mean like it was running down her face. I mean the diva woke up with a snotty nose and therefore decided to lay in her bed and scream at me. While Marek was still sleeping right below her. I wanted to strangle her. Her behavior has been so bad lately... specifically screaming. She screams in Marek's face. She screams when she's playing. She screams when she doesn't gt her way, she screams when she is angry. Yesterday I thought I was gonna strangle her. I ended up implementing a new punishment for screaming. Random screaming, angry screaming, any kind of screaming that is not necessary. Yucky Spray in the mouth. She got yucky spray twice, spankings twice, two time outs in the time out chair and one in her bed. And then, this morning she woke up screaming. She was screaming at Marek in the tub and I reminded her that screaming was punishable with yucky spray.

The problem is a phase, but also that the weather got nice, and we got to spend several days outside, and not it's frigid cold again and we haven't gotten to be out. They are feeling cooped up and it's showing. Marek's evil is to smack, hit, kick or scratch you and then immediately hug you as tight as he can and say "I Love you too mommy." Oh he's good.

Another problem right now is the "I Can't" phase. The "I can't.... (wipe my own butt, put on my own coat/shoes/socks/pants/shirt/underwear/pajamas, turn on the light, open the door, clean up my toys)" and then "Help me mom! I can't do it without you!" Veteran parents, please give me tips on this. I can't stand it. I am forcing her to do things herself, but it always boils down to screaming and whining and crying. She's big into unbuckling her seatbelt without permission. In fact, on Thursday she did it so many times that The last time she did it, we were right by home and I drove into the driveway when we were supposed to be heading to dance class. Then she started her classic "I can't buckle myself" and I said "If you can't buckle, then you need to stop unbuckling without permission. We will not go to dance class until you buckle yourself up." We sat in the drive, until she went into full meltdown mode, then we parked in the garage and I took Marek in, then came back for her and she was in absolute panic that she was going to miss dance class. But still refused to even attempt to buckle herself up. It's infuriating. We ended up coming inside and laying down for an hour and then going to dance class.

We have had conversation after conversation about acting like a big girl and that if she isn't going to act like she's almost four, then I am not going to give her privileges like she is almost 4. No more big kid snacks, no more big kid books to read, no more littlest pet shop and zhu zhu pet toys to play with. Two naps a day, and she can sleep in a toddler bed instead of a bunk bed. This works well, temporarily, but it seems each day starts with this refusal to get dressed, or do anything. She conveniently forgets things like how to put on her pants, and she starts acting silly and puts her underwear on through the leg holes. She puts her shirts on backwards. It's like an intentional regression, considering she was almost completely dressing herself. Now suddenly she can't get up in bed, she can't wipe her butt. It is infuriating. Because it almost always results in a standoff that makes us late and makes me angry.

Well, this is being cut short, more tomorrow?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cooped up

It's almost Friday! Which generally means nothing to me. Except that I don't have to take anyone to school, dance, or MOPS. So, yay me!

Today the kids were mostly little monsters. Marek has just still been stuffy and snotty and coughing here and there and I think that he is really feeling the terrible two's sometimes, and he stops talking and proceeds to endlessly whine and talk in a foreign language. Now he could be Belgian (kidding!!! kidding!!!) But I think that he is actually just not feeling tip top and when that happens a whole lot of everything goes down for him. Ardyn for some reason has spent a couple of days just plain DISOBEYING or DISAGREEING at/in every single situation that is presented to her. Normal I suppose, but exhausting just the same.

Today she got her finger caught in a mouse trap at Grandma and Grandpa's, specifically by disobeying. I didn't even feel badly for her, because it was so blatantly disobedient that I figured she learned her lesson. She wasn't injured, just scared, shocked, embarassed... you name it. And I know it hurt some too. She later told me "I thought it was just something made of wood but then I saw PEANUT BUTTER...." I had to laugh at that. That is completely a child's logic. But mom, there was PEANUT BUTTER. Kudos to Grandpa Dave who can trap anything under the age of 10 with his own very favorite food. I saw it as soon as we walked into the house.

The story was that she had to go potty while we were measuring the dog house that we will be converting to the chicken coop. So I sent her into the house, with strict instructions to go potty and come RIGHT. BACK. So, time passes. I measure the doghouse, I go back into mom and dad's and she comes running out of the living room. I say "What are you doing, did you go potty?" and I can see by the look on her face that she had been caught red handed doing SOMETHING and that she had not gone potty at all. I said "You had better go now before you pee your pants!" and she said "Mom I was just looking for that little tea set so I could play it..." and I knew right away that she was looking for the tiny china tea set that I had bought at the Amish Furniture store earlier in the week. I had brought it to moms and that's where I opened it and let her play tea party with the bunnies. It was funny because she apparently thought it was grandma's and that It was at grandma's house and she was searching for it in the living room. So, off she went to potty, and came right back, and we left. Then we were at GREAT grandpa's outside and when we left there she said "I left my ring at Grandma Deb's!! It's in the bathroom" so we went BACK to grandma deb's (right next door, don't panic) and we went in together and I saw the mouse trap. I said "go up and get your ring and come right back" and I went to the basement and heard her come back down. She called for me and I said "Stay RIGHT THERE (at the top of the steps) and I will be up in one second." I heard "Okay Mom." and then I said "RIGHT. THERE. Ardyn" and two seconds later I heard a scream and I knew right away what she had done. I just knew it. Silly girl. Well, now she knows what a real mouse trap is. We use sticky boards at home because of the kids and the dog. Well, and because I can't set a mouse trap :) and I don't want to have to empty and salvage a mouse trap.

After the mouse trap debacle, we took turns sitting in Grandpa Dave's tractor (the 1086) and then we went to Princeton so that we could pick up our book order and take Ardyn to dance. Marek and I got a lot done during dance, picking up the book order and then dropping school pics off to Great Grandma, and also going to a few stores in search of some graph paper. After dance we came home and I cleaned out the chick's brooder.

I can't believe how much they have grown in the two days we have had them! It's amazing. Their little heads are now peeking over the edges of the baby pool and today one jumped up on the edge of the pool when I was cleaning it out. Tomorrow Evan will bring home the stock tank to put them in as they are now able to escape. Hopefully they just stay put tonight, I think they will because they will just sleep under the light. I am also impressed with how much they have eaten and drank in 24 hours. A decent amount! They really are growing. They now have wings! I know that sounds silly, but when born they are just all fluffy and soft and now their fluff is starting to come out and their wing feathers are all coming in. It's quite impressive. Pretty soon they will go through their "ugly duckling" phase, so I am trying to enjoy the soft fluffy chicks while I still can. I don't know how I will wait until they are all soft and fully feathered. Buffs are really full and fluffy birds, and are classified as a heavy bird, weighing about 8 pounds. And they are good for cold climates and lay eggs year round. This is what a grown Buff Orpington looks like :)

Tonight I went to mom and dad's and drew out the plans for the chicken coop conversion and for the run. There were a few compromises that I had to make, which I realized after the measurements that I took this afternoon, but overall I LOVE the design and am super excited about it. It took some convincing for dad (which I am sure is not over) because to him, of course, the dog house is "just find how it is" and really doesn't need much of anything. I, however, Can't wait to tear off the boring vinyl siding and paint it barn red, and add a green steel roof, and the external nest box and a sliding coop door, and barn doors for cleanout. Yep. When I showed dad my drawings he was surprised, but I think we are at least on the same page now and he has stopped telling me to just set the house on cinder blocks and "voila." (although dad has probably never said Voila in his life)

I am in bed... but should totally go get those drawings and take a picture of them to show you. *sigh*

Can we please wait till tomorrow? No? okay, fine... hang on....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chillin with my Peeps

Chickens. On the Brain. That's the only way to describe us. I thought that when I got the idea to get chickens, I would be the only one (well, besides the kids) that would not laugh hysterically at the idea... or shake their heads disapprovingly. When I first told Evan that I wanted a chicken (it started with just one) He was not only open to the idea, but he seemed to encourage the idea. I wasn't sure if it was just because he didn't want me to launch into debating convincing fact-providing Meagan mode, or if he really truly thought it was a good idea. In the next day or so, the excitement with which he researched online with me was proof that he really DID want to have chickens.

I have never had chickens. When I was in high school, we moved the chicken shed (an old and very cool shed that used to house feed and chickens at different stages in it's life) from my great grandparents house on the farm, to our house on the farm. I was entirely excited. It was going to eventually be converted. I wasn't sure if I would do chickens, but was excited about possibly pheasants or quail or something that I could raise and release into the wild. I saw an animal related project, another FFA Project... I was entirely excited. I guess at the time I didn't see that my dad must have been excited too, because he moved the building for me without much prompting. At the time I probably meant that HE didn't want me to launch into debating convincing fact-providing Meagan mode, but I should have taken into account that as a child, he was raised around chickens. He had a pet chicken on a leash. He had animals all around him, thanks in part to his amazing grandpa, and his dad (my grandpa.) He had a goat looking into his bedroom window in the morning, from the garage roof. He had a pony. He had chickens. He had cows. He had pretty much any animal that they wanted to raise. I have to believe that there is something about animal lovers that just might be genetic. (I know that someone is laughing) But I have always loved animals. I have wanted to raise them, nurse them, care for them (and eat some of them) regardless of whatever stumbling blocks might have supposedly been in my way.

Growing up, no matter what animal I wanted, no matter what reason that I was given that it just couldn't happen, I would try to find a way. The only animal that I was absolutely forbidden to have, was a cat. This is probably a big reason why I am not a cat person. But my dad would never ever give on cats. And I think we knew that, but when we were young, I know we still harassed him about cats.

I am not really sure that I actually asked permission for some of my animals. Okay, for most of them. I know for a fact that I was occasionally told no.... but did it anyway. That's kinda my style. As a parent that must have been insanely annoying. But I did bring home a rabbit from school when it let out for the summer my senior year. And it was a mean rabbit. Like a wild one that we bred in class. But it needed a home and it was cute and small at first. Then it got mean and it bit and it clawed the shit out of me on a regular basis till it got to the point where I didn't have much enjoyment from it anymore. Eventually it got some type of tumor or growth on it's chest that just kept growing and eventually it got so that I could lay it in a small cardboard box and it wouldn't even try to get out. Not because it was well-behaved, but because it wasn't healthy. It was devastating and relieving at the same time... to know that the rabbit's time had come. I remember one day I left for school/work. I told dad that I was leaving the rabbit in a cardboard box on the front step and that I knew it was very sick. I told him that I hoped that it would be gone when I got home, and that I didn't want to know if it hopped into the wild or if my dad ended it's suffering. I still don't know to this day. Dad was good like that :)

Lots of animals have lived in that rabbit hutch since then.

And I had cows. A gentle, cud-chewing, pacifist mamma cow named Geraldine who I raised from a bucket calf that I bought at the sale barn, right up until the day she got on the truck to go back to the sale barn after her calving years were over. She was tame as can be and I walked her around with a halter on and my beef cattle records won me a section FFA Award for Beef Proficiency. And her first calf was named Rowdy, after it promptly head butted my dad when we tried to rope him after birth... and gave dad a serious black eye. I remember not thinking that cow would see his next day of life that moment.

And then there were all our dogs. We had bad luck with dogs. Beagles. LOTS of beagles. Beagles that got sick and beagles that got hit by hay mowers and beagles that got stolen. We were attached to LOTS of beagles. We love beagles. And one mean black poodle that we took off someone's hands when they were moving and it needed a home. Then right back to beagles. Eventually I wanted my own beagle and so despite dad's answer of NO I bought Boyd for $50 from my husband's cousin back in 1997. And he will be FOURTEEN this May! And salamanders. OH did I have salamanders! I would catch them on the road, and dad would find them, and I kept them in a muddy aquarium in the garage with slimy leaves and things in there. I loved those things. I think dad loved them too.

And I had fish in my bedroom and little crabs in the water that jumped out and I found like MONTHS later all dried up on the floor. When I was really little (4 or 5?) I had a fish named... Molly? I know that was our first bucket calf's name... but I think it was the fish's name too? It was in a goldfish bowl in the living room and one day the fish was gone and mom said she grilled me over and over about what I did with the fish, and even tried telling me I wouldn't get into trouble if I would just please tell her where the fish went. I swore up and down that I had no idea and then a while after that, she pulled out the couch to vacuum and we found the petrified fish behind the couch. She said It must have jumped out of the bowl and that then she felt bad for accusing me and drilling me for info on the missing fish when I truly did not know where it was.

Unfortunately my first attempt to have chickens or quail or pheasants never came to light, because a bad storm came through that spawned tornadoes in our area, and it sheared off pine trees in the backyard and flipped that little chicken coop right over and did enough damage that we deemed it fit for the burn pile. There are pictures of that somewhere. I was sad.

I never thought that 15 years later I would be sitting in my own house with 6 baby chicks in my basement. They are so wonderful. I love everything about them. I think I was always dissuaded from liking chickens because I was always told they poop too much and they are filthy and loud and smelly and that they peck at you and eat your plants and kill your grass.

The day that Marek and I stumbled upon the new chicks at TSC, I didn't really think about having chickens. I thought about having chickens "someday." You know, "someday" when I get to live on a farm again. "Someday" when the kids need a pet project. But for some reason those darn chicks nagged at me all day. By early afternoon I had already decided that I could have just ONE chicken. Right? I had been googling and reading and seeing things about backyard chickens... and my research rapidly expanded and continually came up with encouraging, positive, happy chicken owners. Even in CITIES. Not in villages like we live in... in CITIES. Houston. Seattle. Chicago. Really.

We set out to find out about out local ordinances (clear!) and then to find out what we would need to provide (doable!) and then to choose a breed. As soon as I opened a magazine, I saw a Buff Orpington and instantly was in love. Beautiful, fluffy, soft hens. They looked like everything a hen should be! Plump and soft and mothering. But I thought right away that those pretty chickens probably couldn't live in Illinois. The more I researched, the more pleasantly surprised I was. They were recommended for city and town dwelling. Tame and Quiet. Docile and good with pets and children. Great Egg Layers and Meat Birds. Beautiful Fluffy Plumage that keeps them nice and warm in very cold climates. The list of positives just went on and on. Heavy birds so they don't fly (bonus!) The problem would just be finding them.

I went through lots of online hatcheries, discovering that most required a minimum order of 15-25 chicks. I only wanted 1. Then a friend had told me that was really not a good idea, because one chicken won't live long without some companionship. So then I thought... well 2. Then it became three. But there was no way I could take care of more than 2-3 hens in this little yard. I wanted the chickens to be able to free range in the front yard when we were home during the day, and be outside with the kids when we played. I wanted to provide them with a small but adequate coop with a small run they could use when they couldn't free range. But there was just no way I could even raise 25 chicks... I just don't have the space! Then I found a place that lets you buy 5... but 5 chicks were going to be insanely inflated because the shipping cost of that small number was higher than for a whole lot of them. It would cost me MORE to have 5 chicks shipped than to have the same breed shipped in a lot of 15-25 chicks. What? $46 for 5 Buff Orpingtons. I set out to find a hatchery "locally" that would have chicks or even eggs I could incubate if I had to.

The most local I could find was almost 2 hours away, in Miller Iowa. I made plans to potentially drive there, sent the hatchery an email, and they didn't respond. As impatient as I am, the very day after this chicken idea popped into my head, I decided to call TSC Back and just check to see which bird breeds they were carrying. I was sure there wouldn't be Buffs there, but I was curious and thought maybe they could give me an idea of where I could go. The lady at the store ran through the entire list of chicks and ducks they had, and then said "Oh, and there is our feature chick too... let's see. What are those called? *rustling of papers* Buff something..."

I nearly jumped through the phone at her "Buff Orpingtons?!?!?! Are they Buff Orpingtons?!?!" Well, she said "that might be it." and I thought I was going to have to reach through the phone and say "For Gods sake woman, Go look!" She still couldn't pronounce the name, but I spelled it out for her and she said "yep, that's our feature chick" and then I asked how many they had and how much they were and asked them to hold 6 for me at $1.99 each. Yep. Six chicks for $12. I did only want three, but there is the issue that these are straight run chicks, which means they aren't sexed, which means that there might be a rooster (or 6, hopefully not) in my lot... and I don't plan on keeping a rooster...

If I ordered online I could have gotten pullets (female chickens under a year old) but I wasn't paying $46 for 5 chicks. Plus there is a minimum quantity of 6 chicks from TSC, and you have to order in multiples of 6. I suppose this is so they don't have someone just take ONE home as a pet and also because they won't be left with just ONE or TWO at the end of the season. I wonder if chicks go on clearance? LOL.

So they were holding the chicks and The kids and I feverishly got dressed and Evan looked at me and said "Now, you can't just go buy those chicks without having everything you need all set up for them." (really, I could tell that he knew that's exactly what I was about to do, and he knew exactly that I would make it work, but he wasn't prepared to let me do that) and so I put the kids in the van, we drive to the farm and got our baby pool (good ol turtle) out of the bottom shed and then drove to MY parents for a light, gathered the wood chip bedding that I had in the basement already, cleared a space for them, plugged in our light and then hopped right back in the van to drive to TSC to get the chicks, some starter feed, and a waterer and feeder.

So, 24 hours after I saw the chicks for the very first time with Marek, with no idea or thought of having chickens in my near future, I was already on my way to pick up 6 baby chicks. If you haven't noticed already, this is how I operate. Most people probably think that I jump into things without thinking them through, and that I am impulsive and silly. But I have to say, it's quite the opposite. In fact, I might just be one of the quickest researchers I know. The night after I saw the chicks the first time, I had already spread out a pile of about 25 hobby farm and homesteading/natural living magazines (which I already owned of course) and had read every chicken related article in every single one of them (and there were plenty) Then I got out my sustainable living book and read about every type of poultry or fowl and how to raise, care for, and shelter them. Then I read how to process them and store the meat and eggs. Then I googled and spent hours researching breeds and looking at coops and reading about backyard chickens.

The next day the kids and I talked about chickens like crazy. Evan too. We are already in a great little routine of checking on the chicks a few times a day, and today I cleaned their bedding and replaced it, and the same with their water... and also checked their food and removed any debris. They like to be held and softly petted (especially on the chest) and are nestled all snug. They lay sleeping and we like to sneak down and catch them all laying flat with their eyes closed. Evan and I both commented that the first time we saw them sleeping like that we thought they had all died. LOL. So far, it's been more than 24 hours and we still have all 6. I sure hope we can keep them healthy and safe, but I know realistically (because a hundred people have reminded me) that chicks do get sick and die, or predators get them, etc etc.

So now I have been all crazy researching pens and coops and on all the backyard chicken websites looking at photos and specs and ideas... and at things that the coop owners or builders would do differently. I have a sided and shingled wood doghouse that we are planning to convert to a little coop. I have decided that I want the coop to look like a miniature barn or cottage. I would love to have a miniature barn, red with white trim. I would REALLY love to have a cupola on top for venting with a miniature rooster weather vane (believe me, I have already looked into all of this!) But I realistically know that perhaps my helpers won't be as excited about barn details as I am, and if this is the case I am going to rally my cause for a cottage looking coop with a windowbox... maybe yellow with white trim or even a pretty blue or green. My luck it will look like a dog house that got attacked by chicken wire :)

So, that's the story. Well, someone is coughing in their bed, so I had better wrap this up. I will leave you with a couple of images that might make you smile :)

Top: Chicks Huddled together sleeping right after they got home. 2nd Row from Left: Ardyn helping pack the chicks up at the store, kids and daddy checking the temperature in the brooder, Ardyn listening for the peep peeping in the checkout line. 3rd row from left: chick close up in my hand, Marek is so excited about the chicks!

These pics are currently serving as my coop inspiration. They were generously shared at by other chicken owners.

I would really like mine to have a compartment that is latchable, perhaps under the coop, where I can store a sealed plastic containers or buckets of food, grit, etc with the food scoops. Then I don't have to find a place "elsewhere" when I can just have the supplies on hand right there. I also want to make a slatted floor that is ABOVE a solid floor, with a space between that will fit a plastic tray, like you can buy at the farm supply stores, just like the kennel trays that are in dog kennels. I would then make a small door that I can open from the outside, and slide the tray and dirty bedding out to dump or scoop, and then freshen. The plastic tray could also be cleaned/scrubbed/pressure washed whenever necessary. I choose a slotted floor over a wire floor because the specific breed I have chosen is a heavier breed and can be prone to foot problems if not on a slatted or solid floor. They don't do well with wire flooring in their coops. I think it would be nice if the house were on stilts, but I honestly don't think I want it too high off the ground. Just perhaps 2-3 feet. I want the kids to be able to see inside and help collect eggs and care for the chickens too, and I don't want it to be toooo tall and obviously glaring above the fence in the yard... plus that wouldn't block the porch windows in the location we have in mind.

I want an externally added on nest box, and I am thinking just one, but perhaps two just to be safe. I am considering that the nest boxes themselves be removeable and just nest perfectly inside the "addition" and the roof of the nesting addition be hinged for easy access and removal of the nesting boxes. I would also like a lightweight roof, instead of a shingled one. I have considered tin, or perhaps even that corrugated looking plastic that mimics tin. I have seen one coop that used the clear corrugated plastic in the roof, which allowed lots of natural light into the coop. This could be good and bad in summer heat.... so not sure about that just yet. Tin roof seems to be lightweight, sturdy, and logical. The lighter roof would allow for removal of the roof for cleaning, maintenance, and additions to the coop.

I am currently undecided on the floor of the small run. Some people have solid wood. Some people have wire bottoms. I could do slatted wood, but there would still need to be something to stop digging predators. Unsure about this. The solid floor is nice because there is a definite bottom to the coop... but at the same time, it isn't necessarily easier to clean, and I have seen dust baths with play sand done either way. Oh the decisions!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Great Day and the Learning Curve Red Barn Dilemna

The dog and both kids are sleeping. I thought about napping, but a nap starting at 5pm probably isn't in my bestest interest. probably. Plus I had a few things to take care of.

Today was a really great day. I started the morning with getting myself and the kids all dressed, and then I left the kids with daddy and went to pick up Courtney. I wanted to take her to Tampico to the Country Lane Market and Shady Acres Grocery. We ate lunch at R&B's (Former dutch diner) and visited with Jeff Hinton while taking the full house and barn tour. I almost died when Courtney said "I've never been in a barn before." WHY does she not tell me these things? I feel like I have been purposely depriving her. What a horrible friend I am.

The Amish run stores were even better then the last times I visited them. This time Courtney and I bought 100 lbs of rolled oats. Yep. You heard right. And we are splitting a 50 lb bag of white winter wheat, which we intend to grind into own fresh wheat flour. (raise the roof, that's right!)

I actually hugged the bag once, before Hans took it out of my van. Just in case it would be a few days till I saw it again. They have lots of soup base mixes now, so for about $7-9 you can buy a big container of dry soup mix. You then add a few fresh ingredients (if you so choose) like peas, meat, broccoli, etc. and about 1/2-1 cup of the soup mix, and have a hearty delicious soup. Can't wait to try them. There were so many things there that I just WANTED to try, but had no idea what to do with them. Like DARK Brown sugar. Besides wanting to roll around naked in it, I figured there must be something more productive that I could do with it. It just looks so pretty! Crystalline and Dark! I NNNEEeEEeD a reason to NeeeEEEd some.

The Grocery Store itself was also much expanded as far as what they are carrying. Courtney and I got stuck in the Book section for what might very well have been HOURS!!! They had an entire aisle (a large and long aisle) of books. Homeschooling books, Christian books, oh my. some really cute and nice little toys too. They even had Melissa and Doug toys. My favorite was a wooden barn that I know Marek would LOVE LOVE LOVE but It was $49 and I just could NOT do that. But then I came home and looked online and it is $65! WHAT?! So now I want to drive back over and get it for him. His birthday is next week.... *sigh*

If I had any cell phone service there I could have looked it up online and decided while I was still there. Oh well. I guess I will have to go back this week. Don't anyone rush over there and buy it and make me cry.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought of the previous Learning Curve Barn that I asked Grandma to buy, that ended up being a piece of junk, and this hesitated my purchase enough to make me think about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Although I have been happy with almost every Learning Curve product we have (and we have MANY) that I just didn't feel right about their product after that darn barn. So I sent the company an email that went something like this:

Hi there. I am writing regarding the plastic John Deere Big Red Barn Playset, with the barn that folds and the hayloft that attaches inside. I asked grandma to purchase this as a gift for my children, and when we received it, I was so incredibly disappointed in the quality of the barn. I thought perhaps that it was a learning curve (no pun intended) that I needed to get around in order to operate it. Both my husband and myself, and everyone at the party tried to get this barn to work properly. We are still extremely dis-satisfied with the barn. For a while we put it up thinking that our 3.5 and 2 year olds just weren't old enough for it. But when we did bring it down, they would have the whole thing falling apart and bringing the pieces to us within minutes. The doors don't stay on, the roof won't close properly, and the hayloft we are ready to throw away completely. If two 30+ year old parents can't work the barn, how can you expect a child to enjoy and not be frustrated by this toy? I also read the reviews on Amazon and quickly concluded that this was not a one-time "bad day at the factory" incident. This barn is not properly made. We have owned and spent money on a great deal of learning curve children's toys, including Thomas Wooden Railway (we have an entire train setup) and Lamaze Infant Products, including crib toys, stuffed learning animals, and the Lamaze Spin and Explore Garden Gym.

This is only the second product that we have been unhappy with (The first was the Garden Gym, which I never said much about.) Today I almost purchased the $60 Wooden Big Red Machine Shed and when I realized it was a Learning Curve Toy, I hesitated. This was the moment that I realized I should write you about the playset. Before purchasing the big red barn or machine shed (the wooden ones) I was wondering if we sent you back the original Learning Curve barn that we bought, if I could perhaps get some money off the purchase of a more expensive, more sturdy barn. I would love to have a coupon or something, because it seems silly to purchase a product that clearly has a problem, spend $35 on it, and then reinvest in a similar product from the same company. Please respond and let me know. We have a Birthday Party April 3rd and I would like to pick a new barn for my son as soon as possible so that we can have it assembled and ready for a gift at his party. Thanks!

Meagan Johnson
Loyal Learning Curve/Lamaze Toy Brand Customer of 3.5 years

So. That's that. Now we wait to see what Learning Curve says. Poor Marek always wants his tractors in the barn. He loves barns. He LOVES Tractors. But we all hate that darn Big Red Barn because it is essentially just PIECES of a barn that don't function.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wonderful Day

What a wonderful beautiful day! Yay for spring weather! I am writing this post from MIL's iPad. She dropped it off and asked me to do a couple of things to it, and i am getting the feel of it. I love it of course, except the auto correct (which I would have to turn off. I am surprised that I am liking the on screen keyboard as much as I am. I can say, however, that I seriously miss the keypad on the righthand side.... I suppose there should be a way to choose a custom keyboard, right??? And what about shift lock?

Is there the ability to have more than one user? Oh the things to figure out.

So this vertigo is bothersome, but not yet completely kicking my ass. I have been doing the exercises when it becomes overwhelming, and am able to manage okay. I have a prescription for Dramamine II. I haven't taken any yet because I am pretty sure it is gonna knock my ass out. Today the kids and i worked in the yard. Basically ignoring the total chaos and turmoil that is inside the house! I spent the morning raking the yard, and then the rake (new last year) snapped in half. The wood handle just snapped clean through. Strange! So i proceeded to sweeping off the patio and sidewalks, clearing the garden off, putting the hose on the sink/reel, and then organizing. I assembled the wheeled deck box that Evan and I bought for our anniversary last August, and put it out front as well. I cleared off last year's growth from the perennials inside the fence and then was feeling worn out so we went to town to get a new rake and pick up my new dramamine prescription. Then we came home and took the cover off the sandbox and I finished raking and picking up the yard.

Grandpa and grandma came to take Ardyn to dance class and Marek and I went to stuff as many outside toys as we could into the back of the van. We got both cozy coupes, the hippo seesaw, one tricycle, the shopping cart, the bubble mower, and the toddler swing. Marek was thrilled! We came. Home again and Marek played with the toys outside while I picked up leaves into trash bags. Evan came home and helped and I was so relieved because I had been doing all this alone today and bending over to pick up leaves repeatedly and then standing. Up again was making me really dizzy and nauseous. We ran to town for supper with Marek. It was nice. He had a lot to say tonight without Ardyn around!

Yesterday when we were at the park swinging, Ardyn got a big smile and looked up at the sky and said "God is so happy to see me today mom! He's smiling down at me with the sunshine!" awwww. Then today she was peeling green moss off the ground in the yard, and sitting in on the seat of the swing. Then she would push the moss on the swing, really high, and it would fall off and she would do it all over again. I asked her what she was doing, and she said I am pushing this moss really high on the swing, trying to send it flying up to God!" wow. I said "but God made that moss here on earth for us, why do you ink he would want it back?" she pondered and decided to keep it here.

Then tonight, On the way home from supper, Marek was singing in the van to himself. This is the first time I have heard him sing. He was singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but he would sing "Twinkle twinkle little star of Jesus." lol. Tonight when i rocked him to sleep he. Said "sing Jesus mommy!" too cute that kid! Both of them actually.

Well, I am gonna catch some Z's and avoid vertigo tonight :) hope you enjoyed these past two days of great weather here in IL or elsewhere! The strawberries are already growing nicely here in the garden!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ardyn's quote of the day "I just pooped a poop that looked just like the body of a children!!!"
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